Skip to main content

Full text of "A history of Persia"

See other formats

XLVH         THE TRAGEDY OF KERBELA          43
arrow, and then in a calculated burst of savagery was
ridden over by the horsemen. Not a fighting man was
left alive, but like the defenders of Thermopylae they
leYt deathless fame behind them. When the seventy
heads were brought to Obaydulla, and he callously turned
that of Husayn over with his staff, the voice of an aged
Arab rose in protest. " Gently ! " he said ; " it is the
grandson of the Prophet. By Allah ! I have seen these
very lips kissed by the blessed mouth of Mohamed ! "
The Journey to Damascus and the Return to Medina.—
The two little sons of Husayn, AH Asghar and Husayn,
his two daughters, and his sister were sent to Damascus.
There the Caliph, having secured the destruction of the
family, disowned responsibility for the acts of his officials
and entertained the orphans with respect and considera-
tion until arrangements were made for their return to
Medina. In that city they lived, pouring out the stories
of their woes to the pilgrims who, visited the tomb of the
Prophet, until dark clou,ds of indignation gathered against
the Omayyad dynasty.
The Passion Plays.—This tragedy was the origin of the
Passion Plays, which are acted annually not only in Persia,
where Shiism is the official religion, but also throughout
Asia wherever Shia Moslems gather together. I have
been a spectator of these plays, and can testify that to
listen to the shrill ululations of the women and the grief
of the men is so moving that it is difficult not to execrate
Shimr and Yezid as fervently as the rest of the audience.
Indeed the Passion Plays represent a force of poignant
grief which it would not be easy to estimate, and the
scenes I have witnessed will remain unforgotten so long
as I live.1
The Historical Basis of the Shia Sect.—It was as the
result of this tragedy that the Shia or cc Faction" of
Persia came into existence. It is asserted by Arabic
writers, among the earliest being Al-Yakubi2 of the ninth
1  In chap. xii. of The Glory of the Shia World I have attempted to give the tragedy
from the Persian point of view.
2  Ed. Houtsma, vol. ii. p. 293 (quoted from Browne's work).    "Among the sons
of Husayn were AH Akbar, who was killed at Taff and left no offspring . . ., and
AH Aaghar, whose mother was Harar, the daughter of Yezdigird, whom Husayn used to
call Ghazala (*the Gazelle')."